With little fanfare ahead of time, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn showed up in New York City with a brand new 2016 Nissan Altima — marking the first reveal of Nissan’s best-seller in the United States. Though it sports a fresh face, new trim, and slightly improved mileage, the new Altima doesn’t exactly break any new ground. But in this segment, that’s proven to be successful.
You’ll notice right off the bat that it takes many cues from the larger Maxima. But while its older sibling’s styling seems more forced — garish, even — the Altima’s toned-down design language is restrained and conservative, though it carries Nissan’s new futuristic style strategy well. Overall, it’s a sharp-looking car that has a presence without being loud about it.
This is important in the midsize sedan segment because while enthusiasts clamor for fun and exciting cars, that’s not what sells. The Toyota Camry has been America’s best-selling sedan for years because it’s conveniently beige. It blends in, and is entirely unoffensive in its appearance and presence. The Mazda6 is a gorgeous, well-appointed and well-built commuter car that gets commendable mileage and punches far beyond its weight in terms of looks. And guess what — it doesn’t sell. Not like the Camry or Altima do.
Nissan was right to leave the Altima on the conservative side and let other models — the Juke comes to mind — do the talking. Nissan has a good thing going with its midsize sedan, and being too heavy-handed with the design could easily drive non-decided buyers to a Honda Accord.
“As the best-selling vehicle in the Nissan lineup, it’s important that Altima exemplifies ‘Nissan-ness’ inside and out,” said Executive Design Director Mamoru Aoki in Nissan’s press blast. “With its fresh new look, aggressive SR model and strong connection to our all-new Murano and Maxima, the new Altima continues to stand out in a very competitive marketplace.”
Nissan will find itself competing with a new Accord, Hyundai’s Sonata line, and the aforementioned Mazda6 and Camry. But there’s also the Ford Fusion and a redesigned Chevrolet Malibu around the corner as well, and competition in this segment has long been fierce.
For 2016, the Altima picks up the SR trim. Based on the base S model, the SR adds smoked lenses, daytime running lights, and new fog lights. There’s also a new suspension setup with re-tuned dampers, stiffer front and rear stabilizers, and an 18-inch wheel option that Nissan said is the first of its size to be offered on the Altima.
Engine options are between the 2.5 liter, 182-horsepower four-cylinder or the 270 horsepower 3.5 liter V6. Thanks to active grille shutters, underfloor aero cover additions, overall aerodynamic improvements, the new Altima should manage 39 miles per gallon on the highway (a 1 mile improvement) and 27 around town.
The interior didn’t see a whole lot of change either, and non-Nissan owners would be hard-pressed to pick out the differences, though Nissan insists that the “interior design follows the new “Gliding Wing” design language, shared with Murano and also the new Rogue.”
That’s mainly it — the new Altima isn’t revolutionary in any way, just subtly evolutionary enough to hold it over until Nissan’s engineers can redesign the car from the ground up. For its segment, this is important. Though companies like Ford and Toyota are taking major risks when messing with some of their most popular models (the 2015 F-150, and 2016 Prius), Nissan is staying the course — at least for now — to be there for those who are looking for simple, reliable transportation.